Sunday, November 30, 2008

Treasure Trove: Jackon Heights Edition

The 7 train is probably the best subway line in New York, as far as eating adventures go. It cuts diagonally across some of Queens' most interesting ethnic neighborhoods: Sunnsyide (Latin America), Flushing ("The Real Chinatown"), and my personal favorite, Jackson Heights. JH was traditionally an Indian/South Asian stronghld, though in recent years a profliferation of taco trucks and Peruvian restaurants have started springing up along Roosevelt Ave. Still, the 74 St/ Broadway stop is rife with regional Indian delicacies, and with most things packed together tight in a 5-10 block radius, the JH Indian sector is a colorful, easy-to-navigate chunk of fun. Below, some of my favorite finds from Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery store on 37th Ave.

DeDe "Basil Seed Drink with Honey." Look at those crazy basil seeds floating around in there! It's like bubble tea but better. The seeds just kind of hang there, suspended in the liquid, perhaps indefinitely. Although the instructions read "Shake Well," I'm not sure why exactly this step is necessary.

100% pure cow ghee, by the gallon. Like many things, ghee is not very exciting to look at until you see it packaged in huge quantities. There's like 1 million calories in there. Cool!

Kawan brand Jalapeno & Cheese Naan. I just sense that somewhere, some preciousIndian grandma is cringing at the sight of this "traditional leavened bread" being bastardized with the unofficial flavoring pairing of 7-11s everywhere.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

Brunch, as the last stop for the week's goods, is a time of great creativity in kitchens. Unexpected treats oftentimes crop up on brunch menus, and it's also one of the few acceptable times to drink before noon.

I am firmly in the pro-brunch camp, as evidenced by the photo above.
This particular plate was a special at Lodge, one of my most frequent brunch haunts in south Williamsburg. It's a pile of cheddar grits, pulled BBQ pork, and poached eggs.
Look at this monster! Oh, it was a glorious conquest.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Tuna Takeover 2000

I think my love of the absurd reached its zenith last weekend, when B and I crossed state lines to attend Mitsuwa Marketplace's "Fresh Giant Bluefin Tune Cut Performance" in Edgewater, New Jersey. The event is fairly self-explanatory, but in a nutshell, a team of Japanese master chefs reduced a 400-lb bluefin tuna to sashimi before a thong of adoring fans. It was a beautiful display of knifemanship, slightly morbid, and totally ridiculous.
Check out a video (not mine), here.

Mitsuwa is one of the largest Japanese supermarkets in America (other Mitsuwa stores are located in Chicago and California), featuring a vast array of imported produce and meats, a foodcourt, a bookstore and more. Families can often be found carrying empty suitcases or coolers into the store and stocking up Japanese provisions.

All that was left of the tuna after about 4 hours of slicing and dicing.

This was by far one of our more epic food adventures. B and I have literally waited hours for ramen and gone to the depths of Queens for curry chicken, but rarely do our meals involve taking a shuttle bus from Port Authority. This one did, and was entirely worth it. My next post will review some of our non-tuna purchases, like Japanese pancake mix and, of course, candy.

The final product.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weird Science

Cheddar Cauliflower, xoxo
I used to be a straight-up cauliflower hater. Why? Because the typical white, limp cauliflower is nothing but a useless filler on vegetable platters around the world. I pride myself on my ability to avoid cauliflower in any incarnation.

But last week at the market, I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, drawn to a booth with a little hotplate setup that was handing out samples of something smelling lovely. Without even thinking, I plopped a toothpick into the bowl and pronounced the fluffy orange stuff in it delicious. Lo and behold, I was informed that I had consumed cauliflower.
After panicking for a moment, I calmed down. Turns out I had eaten some cheddar cauliflower, which is really pretty and contains 25x more beta carotene than lamewad white cauliflower. So I bought a head, which is delicious when sauteed with a nothing more than garlic, salt and pepper.

Mathematician's Delight
And then D, who is a lover of all things fractal , came home with another crazy cauliflower, the Romanesco variety. It was was even cooler-looking than the cheddar, though I cannot yet vouch for its flavor.

The moral of the story: Try new things. Cauliflower can be good. Nature is cool.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Market Report

Alex at Maxwell's Farmstand displays a fine gooseneck gourd

It's fall! It's fall! It's fall and the Greenmarket is overflowing! Oh, I do love summer, with its tank tops, berries, and sun, but nothing beats the produce of fall, when apples and pumpkins and squashes of all colors take center stage. It's all awful pretty. Below, a sampling of some offerings at the Union Square Greenmarket this past Monday:

Non-edible dried wheat. Roommate B will kill me if I bring home more decorative plants, but damn if these didn't tempt me.

Amazing technicolor squashes. Cornucopia much?

Apples! Yes, apples are available year-round, but they're at their crisp, juicy peak now.



Saturday, October 18, 2008

Portrait of a Saturday Morning

My house. Noon.

There used to be eggs and toast on this plate, too.

Brioche cinnamon buns, from What Geeks Eat.

What D wears to make brioche cinnamon buns.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tales of Southeast Asia

The wreckage of our table at Skyway
I'm big into adventures. Parachuting, ice luging, cliff diving, whatever. I've done them all.* But I particularly enjoy eating adventures. Recently, I have been exploring the wilds of Southeast Asian cuisine, specifically Malaysian and Thai food. I gathered the troops for one trip to Skyway Malaysian in lower Manhattan, and another to SriPraPhai Thai in Woodside, Queens. Skyway was written up by Robery Sietsema in the Village Voice, and SriPraPhai is one of the most hotly-contested restaurants on Chowhound, due to the widely held belief that it is the best Thai restaurant in New York City. I slipped into my dungarees and set off to see for myself.

A sampling of appetizers at SriPraPhai. Crispy catfish meat salad (ha! I love meat salads!), Mee-Krob (sweet and sour crispy vermicelli with shrimp), and BBQ pork topped with garlic, chili and lemon juice. The catfish was very strange--little airy puffs with a fishy essence, and smothered with the Thai flavor trademarks of chili and citrus. The BBQ pork was supertender, though not really like the BBQ pork they sell at roadside carts in Bangkok, which is more like the Chinese-style with a red lacquering on the outside. The mee-krob was fine, though I'm not sure it needed that weird avant-garde plating.

Pedestrian red curry with chicken, and, for the sake of posterity, a vegetable: Chinese broccoli. Oh wait, the broccoli came with crispy fried pork bits. We tried. Everyone who writes about SriPraPhai raves about how spicy it is, and I don't mean to sound like I'm superbadass but I was doing okay on the tongue-singing scale. Maybe it just went numb and I couldn't tell. The broccoli was good, probably because it was swimming in pork grease.

One word of warning should you make the trek to Woodside for SriPraPhai: prepare to wait. Seriously. We went on a Saturday night around 8, and weren't seated until after 9. They close the kitchen by 10, and there were definitely people who didn't make the cut. This is no hidden gem, friends.

Skyway, on the other hand, may be. On a not-so-scenic stretch of Allen Street, it's got a goofy tiki decor and a not many patrons (or at least not when I was there, on a Friday for lunch. Though the fact that it was a Friday afternoon in the outskirts of Chinatown may explain the lack of diners. Anyhow.). I'm not that familiar with Malaysian cuisine, but given Malaysia's proximity to Thailand and my intense love of Thai sour-sweet flavor combinations, I wasn't anticipating problems finding something delicious. Indeed, my problems at Skyway stemmed more from needing to limit my ordering than trying to find something I wanted.

Chicken Rendang, cooked over low heat with coconut milk, chiles, cinnamon and other spices. This was incredible. I still crave it. The meat (which, it should be noted, is a random assortment of lopsided bone-in pieces) is tender and saturated all the way to the bone with an intense spice marinade. I know this picture might not be the most flattering, but I was absolutely blown away by this dish. The sauce has the consistency of some curries but not the flavor, and is also available on beef or lamb.

These are ginger duck noodles in soup with a duck-soy sauce broth. It was pretty gamey but still good. The duck meat in the soup is great for flavoring, but not so much for eating.

Malaysian food seems pretty cosmopolitan, borrowing ingredients and techniques from India, China, and Singapore. We got Ron Telur, a traditional Indian pancake filled with egg and onion, served with a chicken curry dipping sauce, a huge baby oyster-and-chive omelette, and Singapore-style fried rice noodles with shrimp, onion, bean sprout, egg and lop cheong (Chinese sausage). The omelette, for those who love oysters, is a ridiculous bargain at $7. The noodles were good, but a bit sweet.

We did not even begin to do justice to the menu at Skyway, which is enormous. I straight up do not know what half of the foods on there are. But I have every intention of going back to find out.

* lies.

SriPraPhai Thai
64-13 39th Ave 11
Woodside, Queens 11377
718 899-9599

Skyway Malaysian
11 Allen St (at Canal)
New York, NY 10002
212 625-1163


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Condiments I Have Known and Loved

From the makers of BaconSalt: Baconnaise.

Not technically a condiment, but looks delicious nonetheless.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The Church of Baconology

Normally I wouldn't publicize my religious views, but I want to spread the good word.


Friday, September 19, 2008

In-Home Entertainment

With all the bacon and dumplings and oddly-flavored naan lately, I know it looks like I never actually eat at home.
Which I do.

Proof: This pizza, which I made last week. In my house. I have this troublesome compulsion to grocery shop, buy a ton of perishable goods, and then eat out every night until everything I bought goes bad. I know I have a problem, and this pizza is part of the solution. Pizza is a great way to use up whatever's hanging around the fridge, on the brink of moldy death. In my case, critical patients included prosciutto, mushrooms, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and a tub of ricotta cheese.

I know that making pizza dough is really easy and cheap and blah blah, so shoot me, I bought prepackaged dough from Trader Joe's because it costs all of $2 and saved me at least an hour of prep time. Some might argue that this whole defense of me cooking at home isn't even cooking, because I'm actually really just assembling all my groceries on top of store-bought dough, to which I respond "meh" and point out that I had to turn on the both the stove and the oven for this venture, which constitutes cooking.

Anyhow. Here's the recipe:

1 bag pizza dough
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 lb fresh spinach, washed
1 cup cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half
(optional) 5-6 thin slices prosciutto or other cured meat
fresh mozzarella cheese
fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to fit whatever you're cooking it on (I used a cookie sheet, so my pizza was rectangular). Brush with 2 tbsp olive oil.

Heat the remaining oil in a saute pan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until onions get soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the spinach and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes.

That's all the cooking we'll be doing today.

Arrange your pizza: I layered the prosciutto on the bottom, then mozzarella, the spinach/onion mix, mushrooms, and sprinkled the tomatoes and olives on top . And then spooned globs of ricotta over that. Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes were last.

Bake for appx. 25 minutes, or until crust is brown.

This recipe screams for adaptations, substitutions, additions or subtractions. I was trying to use up what was in my fridge, and pizza is pretty much a blank slate. It's stupid easy to make, but for some reason people are always really impressed with homemade pizzas. So remember, kids, every once in a while it's ok to have a night in.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Gluttony

Those who know me know I love pork. Those who love pork know that bacon is the crown jewel of pigs.
It is with this introduction that I present chocolate-covered bacon, the penultimate sweet/savory snack. It is sold at Roni-Sue's Candy Shoppe in lower Manhattan's Essex Market. Roni starts by taking 6 lbs of raw bacon, renders it down to about 1 lb, and then dips each strip into milk or dark chocolate.
Roni is a twisted genius.
Close-up on this magical, artery-clogging treat.


Friday, September 5, 2008


Xiao long bao from Nan Shian Dumpling House in Flushing, Queens. Wrapper thicker than traditional Shanghai-style, but still not doughy. XLB's nickname "soup dumplings" stems from the melted gelatin "broth" that spills out once the first bite is taken. Potentially very dangerous to the roof of the mouth. Hasty eaters, proceed with caution.

So I've been on blahg vacation. What did I do over my summer break? Mostly, I ate. (Shocker.) In particular, I ate a veritable shitton of my favorite food ever: DUMPLINGSSSS. I was actually reluctant to even post this because I worry that I might launch into some epic dumpling rhapsody that never ends. I love dumplings in all of their cultural/ethnic incarnations:
gyoza, ravioli/tortellini, kreplach, peirogi, mandoo, shu mai, gnocchi, matzoh balls, etc. Whatever. I'll take it all.

But my favorite dumplings are Chinese ones: xiao long bao (soup dumplings), jiaozi, potstickers, wontons, bready steamed bao, and probably 999 others I can't think of right now. It is not at all uncommon for me go significantly out of my way (i.e., Flushing) in the hunt for quality dumplings. I never get sick of them. Maybe this is a product of living in China for 5 months, but I seem to recall that my obsession with these bad boys began much earlier--in all seriousness, I once asked the counselors at my Jewish summer camp if any of our SYSCO-catered meals would include pork dumplings.

Hong-Kong style shrimp/pork/ black mushroom wontons from Sifu Chio in Flushing, Queens. Very thin wrapper, chunky filling (whole shrimp), garnished with sliced scallions. Broth unexceptional. These wontons kind of look like brains, no?

I can't even begin to break down the regional dumpling differences across China, so suffice it to say that I am careful with my ordering: never expect quality XLB (xiao long bao) at a Cantonese restaurant (if they offer them at all)--XLB are Shanghai specialties, nowhere near the southern Canton province. Conversely, the best steamed bbq pork bao are usually found at southern bakeries, and the potstickers from Fuzhou-style shops usually have thinner wrappers and lighter filling than their heavier, doughier Beijing jiaozi counterparts. I'm not even going to attempt to tackle dim sum.

!!!SERIOUSLY THE BEST DUMPLINGS EVER!!! I am so psyched about this place. Lan Zhou Hand-Pulled Noodle on East Broadway in Manhattan. Fuzhou-style potstickers, impossibly thin wrapper, fried gently on the bottom, with a nice coating of wok hay, then steamed on top. Filling is only pork and tons of scallions. Served with a sweet-garlic soy sauce mixed with Sriracha. $2/10 dumplings. OMFG! I LOVE LZHPN.

Traditionally, dumplings are a great way to dispose of leftovers: nasty little bits of meat, the top end of scallions, random chunks of vegetables from other dishes. I prefer to completely ignore any of the potentially unsavory aspects of my little pets; why do you think they're so cheap? No one ever died from tainted dumplings. It strengthens your immune system. Get over it.

Spicy Shanghai-style pork/cabbage wontons, with hot pepper oil, from Unnamed Wholesale Dumpling Distributor Place That Looks Confused Every Time I Go There, by my house in Brooklyn. I love it when Asian places ask white kids if they want their food spicy, and the white kid says yes, and then the Asian cook goes apeshit with the hot oil and the white kid is left clutching their tongue and gasping for breath while attempting to eat in a public place. These were pretty good.

In conclusion, dumplings are basically God's Ideal Food. And I <3 dumplings of all shapes and sizes. But especially the Chinese ones.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Chicago Redux: Sausage Fest

Mural on the bathroom wall of Hot Doug's

Last week I ventured back to my great Midwestern homeland, Chicago. I was there at the insistence of my father, who bribed me with the promise of a trip to Hot Doug's Encased Meat Emporium and Sausage Superstore.

Eager encased meat fans line up

I have previously pledged my allegiance to the Chicago-style hotdog on this blog, and Hot Doug's is further proof that Chicago is the most sausage-centric city ever known to man. Although the recent James Beard Foundation White Paper concludes that the hamburger is the iconic American dish, to paraphrase Mr. Hot Doug Sohn himself, "There are no two finer words in the English language than 'encased meat.'" Sohn has built a massive Chicago following (we waited outside for 1 hour and 15 minutes) dedicated to his unwieldy sausages, made of the likes of buffalo meat and jerk pork, to name a few. Hot Doug's is also (in)famous in Chicago for being the first restaurant ticketed for running afoul of the (now defunct) foie gras ban, which Sohn served atop the "Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Black Truffle Sauce Moutare, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris." This is not your corner hotdog shop. Still, Hot Doug's offers perfectly serviceable "normal" options, like bratwursts and corndogs and (obviously) the grilled Chicago dog. But if you're going to stand in line for upwards of an hour, it really doesn't make sense to walk out without having tried something a bit more…exotic.

Our table, groaning under the weight of much meat

Below, I present a visual smorgasboard of my encased meat fiesta: 8 dogs for 3 people, 1 order of regular-fried French fries, 1 order of weekends-only duck fat-fried French fries, 4 cans of Dr. Brown's Cherry Soda, 1 bottle Jones Orange Cream Soda, appx. 67 napkins, and (not pictured) a large handful of Tums. This meal was easily one of the most disgusting and awesome things I have ever taken part in. God bless America.

Char-Grilled Beer Brat with Caramelized Onions and Spicy Mustard.

Brown Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Mayonnaise and Smoked Cheddar Cheese

Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Roasted Pepper-Avocado Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions

BACON SAUSAGE with Creme Fraiche, Caramelized Onions and Comte Cheese

Tomato-Basil Chicken Sausage with Pesto Genovese, Roma Tomatoes and Burrata Cheese

Irish Banger with Guinness Stout Mustard and Red Leicester Cheese

Not pictured: Chicago style-dog, the second bacon sausage we ordered, multiple bags of French fries.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Moon & Me

So here's this thing that I didn't write for my blog, but is still about food and worth reading.
Trawling the Urban Food Wastelands--Tumbleweed Slim's Bushwick Bodega Rice & Beans, which I was asked to write for The New York Moon, a smart, subversive online magazine matched to the lunar cycle. I highly encourage you to take a look at other articles in past issues, because I think The Moon is pretty damn neat.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tour de Noodles

It has come to my attention that I eat a lot of noodles. Nobody really went out of their way to point this out to me, but in reviewing my diet this past week, I've noticed an abundance of pasta. I love me some carbs. I like bread, straight up. Rice is okay, too. I also live in fear that I will one day wake up and weigh 300 lbs.

This is my version of Chinese Dan Dan noodles, which is basically an Asian version of spaghetti bolognese. Mine was mouth-inceratingly spicy, so tread lightly with hot bean sauce.

The finished product: goes well with beer.

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
2-3 tbsp hot bean sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 lb fresh egg noodles
1 tsp sesame oil

Chop the pork into an even finer mince.
In a wok or heavy pan over high heat, heat peanut oil. Add ginger and garlic and stir briefly, about 20 seconds. Add the pork and stir 2-3 min to separate the grains, but do not brown.

Meanwhile, boil (unsalted) water for the pasta.

When the pork has separated and changed color, add the bean sauce, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. Cook, stirring often, 3-4 min. When the pork has cooked through, turn off heat and stir in scallions.

Boil noodles 3 1/2- 5 min. Drain and toss with sesame oil. Serve with meat sauce.

It's your call on keeping the meat separate from the noodles. Whatever floats your boat. Also works well with peanuts, cucumbers, and/ or cilantro thrown in at the end.

Next up: Something a little lighter, perhaps, after all that pork. But I clearly have an Asian fixation. This is a Japanese dish called Otsu. It's ridiculously good, and one of the few things I actually follow a recipe for, unlike my ungodly Dan Dan concoction above. The recipe calls for tofu as the protein of choice, but I also like to use sliced avocado.

Tofu: My roommate likes it. I prefer avocado, aka "The Bacon of Fruit"

For the dressing:
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu (soy) sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

For the rest:
1 package soba noodles
1 package extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, roughly chopped
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson,

The dressing for otsu is really what makes it. It's perfect for summertime, and I use the leftovers on top of salads, rice, and other bland things.

The final leg: Something not Asian. Remember my first post, about garlic scapes? Yeah, I'm still pretty into them. Despite my initial hesitation, I ended up making scape pesto last week. It was actually too strong by itself (a shock, given my abrasive-taste tendencies), so I blended in a can of cannellini beans to make a sort of pesto/hummus/pasta sauce/ spread thing. I then put this multi-hyphenated spread on top of fettucini, along with a nice healthy handful (or two) of grated Parm, and fried up some sweet onions for texture on top. That's it. No recipe. You should be able to figure this one out.

The cannellini beans give these noodles a great creamy feel without actually using any cream (don't get me wrong--the cheese didn't hurt, but I'd like to think the healthful properties of beans made up for some of that dairy goodness).

And that is all in my Tour de Noodles--for this week, anyway.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Market Report

It's summertime in the city, which means an abundance of produce at the market. I don't wish to get overly involved in the politics of the urban Greenmarket: for my part, the Union Square market is close to work, fun to browse, and pretty to look at.
Offering my two cents on the locavore/ Slow Food/ sustainable agriculture trend and its consequences seems, to be frank, a bit tired to me. It's not that I don't care--these topics are certainly pertinent to my personal and professional life--I simply don't feel the need to embroil myself in an already much-publicized, highly complicated batch of issues. I do, however, offer the following as food for thought, if you are so inclined:

Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map
(One of my personal, thought-provoking favorites): A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss
NY Times Opinion: Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores?

Moving along.

The point here is to share with you the delicious wealth of fruits and veggies (and meats and cheeses and breads) arriving with the warm temperatures. Above, we have gorgeous stone fruits, a colorful trifecta of beans; below, an assortment of cabbages and scallions, plus carrots, radishes and a strange creature ("famous," according to its signage) known as the Avocado Squash.

Sometimes shopping at the Greenmarket can be intimidating. There are too many booths, too many people, and way too much to choose from. Sometimes I panic when foods with a limited season arrive, because I think I need to buy those garlic scapes/ artichokes/ sour cherries/ one billion other potential things RIGHT NOW BEFORE THEY GO AWAY FOREVER. These feelings are natural. It is important to breathe deeply and soldier on when the panic sets in, lest it become too overwhelming and you miss out on [whatever food] entirely.

Anyhow, this is just a small sampling of what's on display now. Check the Council on the Environment of NYC's Greenmarket Guide for a complete list of market locations, seasonal updates, volunteer information and more. (Also, if anyone has actually done some work at any of the city's Greenmarket, let me know! I want some firsthand perspective.)

Wait, are these really famous? What do I do with them?